The AFA spoke with Robert Edwards from Edward Sofa’s, whose passion for the industry is obvious given he is still working in the business at seventy five years of age, so that is where we started the conversation.
AFA – What do you love about what you do?
RE – Well l am 75 and still going strong. I don’t want to retire as l think if you stop having a purpose you stop living. l love my job, l love working with people, l love being able to help them, it’s great. I love building furniture, and we do all types here, traditional style furniture which no one makes any more. We can build anything for anyone. I get a lot of pleasure from building things, we do modern furniture too when it comes our way.
We have a good life, we live in Drouin, l grew up in Drouin as well and you get to know everyone. Even though nowadays what were paddocks are now housing estates, so we have seen the place evolve and change.
AFA – Talking about evolving and changing, we noticed you accept Bitcoin as payment as it was on your web site?
RE – That’s a funny story, a bloke came in about 22 months ago and wanted to buy one of the sofas l had on the floor and he asked me if we accepted Bitcoin, l said no and sent him on his way. Then after he left about 6 months later l was looking into this bitcoin and the rate of it had grown so much if l had have accepted it then it would have been worth $400k in 6 months’ time. I went along to a few of their seminars in the city and there was all these young blokes there and l learned a bit about it, and it seemed a better deal than Barter Card and some of those other things we were involved in, so we now accept Bitcoin.
AFA – Have you had anyone offer it again?
RE – Nope…(laughs)
AFA – Tell us about your business, how you started etc
RE – Well prior to 1998 we were based in the factory part of Doveton in Melbourne and it was called New Dutch Upholstery. Our biggest client was Going Going Gone in Richmond and they were great, regular payers, consistent business every week it was going along nicely. Then the owner said to me that he could get a whole crate from the Philippines for the same price l was charging him with three times the amount of stock.
He was a great bloke as he was honest and told me up front, l said “Fair enough” His advice, was we needed to get a few other stores to stock our products, it was then l decided to open a retail shop of my own. So we are down here in Narre Warren, it was a quiet street and now it has been opened up and is a main thorough fair to Fountain Gate. So the position is a good one…though it still surprises me the amount of people who come in and say to me that they drive up and down the road and have been for years and never noticed us (laughs). That’s how we started.
There isn’t really anyone else that l know of that does the type of work we do.
AFA – What about the younger generation?
RE – We don’t really get many of those they don’t know what quality is, and they are prepared to throw things away after a period of time. They spend a fortune on all of these electronic gadgets but are happy to sit on a milk crates (laughs). We do get a few of them in every now and again but it is mostly the older ones that keep us going.
RE - We have four people working here with one apprentice. I am very worried as the Apprentice has no trade school to go to for Upholstery. The local TAFE want to cut the course and l haven’t heard anything, at this rate this trade is going to die off. They will expect us to take him through his schooling and monitor his studies which we just don’t have the time to do. The Government is putting all of this money back into TAFE’s but where is it going? I know heaps of people who want to do Upholstery as a trade but there is no support for it.
AFA – We are aware of this and the AFA is lobbying Government as an ongoing task to try and rectify. The AFA’s CEO, Patrizia Torelli lobbies at every opportunity.
RE – That’s good we need that and it is appreciated, but all the Governments are the same, all talk no action (sigh)
AFA – What about Edwards Sofas for the future?
RE - Well that’s a tricky one, l am 75, my two daughters are nurses, their kids are in the plumbing trade, it would be good to have had someone in the family to take it over but there really isn’t anyone. I asked one of the blokes here if he would be interested and he said no, so l guess we just keep going and cross that bridge when we come to it.
AFA – Thank you for your time. Let us know if anyone pays by Bitcoin that will be an interesting story and you never know by reading this article you might find someone who you can pass the baton on to. We look forward to seeing you at Furnitex connect.